Sunday, September 23, 2018

Melissa Cropper, President of OFT, Addresses the STRS Ohio Board on September 20, 2018

Melissa Cropper, President of the Ohio Federation of Teachers, addressed the STRS Ohio Retirement Board on September 20, 2018.

As an elected person, I understand that I have certain responsibilities to the people who elected me. I have a responsibility to be accessible. I have a responsibility to listen to concerns. I have a responsibility to be responsive. Sometimes I agree with the concerns that are brought to me, and sometimes I disagree. When I disagree, I have a responsibility to not only explain why but to also listen to the other side and try to come to some understanding or solution. I also take direction from my Board and not the other way around.

We have all seen what happens when people feel like their voices are not heard. We saw the Women’s March on Washington D.C., the teacher walkouts across the nation, and more specifically, the teacher protests over pension issues in Kentucky. These protests all had two things in common. One – they happened because people felt like their concerns were being ignores. Two – they started with a Facebook page.

Our members across the state have been increasingly interested in the decisions and actions of the STRS Board. In fact, their engagement over the time that I have been involved with OFT has increasingly grown. They understand that you all have a very difficult job to do, and they appreciate your work, but they are frustrated that they can’t watch a Board meeting unless they drive to Columbus, and if they do drive to Columbus, they only have three minutes to express a concern with no actual interaction with Board members, and they cannot even send an email directly to a Board member.

Our Toledo President decided to respond to those concerns by inviting elected board members to a meeting with our members about their concerns. You see, our members believe that we have a board that is both appointed and elected for a reason. Appointed members represent the concerns of those who appointed them, and elected members should represent the concerns of those who elected them. Both should listen to the concerns of those they represent, bring them back to the board, and ask the difficult questions on our behalf.

We were shocked when we heard that Board members will not attend that meeting because they have been advised by STRS to not attend any meetings where the COLA is being discussed.

I am sincerely hoping that this has been a misunderstanding or misinterpretation, and since I was not directly involved in those discussions, I want to extend an invitation to you today for our meeting on Sept. 26. If that date doesn’t work, let us know what date will work, and we will accommodate.

Thank you.